Learn Before You Burn

Autumn is here, and for many Kentuckians that means lighting up the “backyard burn pile”.  However, burning trash is illegal in Kentucky, and the Division for Air Quality reminds you to learn before you burn.  Illegal burning can result in a fine of up to $25,000.  In Kentucky, it is never legal to burn household trash other than uncoated paper products.  Aerosol cans, plastic, tires, food waste, coated wire, motor oil, painted or treated lumber, and many other materials create toxic fumes and ash that are hazardous to human health and the environment.  Children, the elderly, and those with existing health problems are particularly vulnerable to smoke from open burning.  To learn before you burn, or to report an illegal open burn, please call the Division for Air Quality at 1-888-BURN-LAW, or visit our website at air.ky.gov .

  •  “Open burning” is the outdoor burning of any material without an approved burn chamber, stack, or chimney with control devices approved by the Kentucky Division for Air Quality.  Some open burning is legal, with restrictions.  Other than vegetative debris, most materials are illegal to burn.  Call 888-BURN-LAW to learn before you burn.
  • While a long-standing cultural tradition, the back yard burn barrel is a growing public health concern.  Most household waste contains low levels of chlorine, releasing toxic pollutants known as dioxins when burned.  Dioxins are linked to birth defects, cancer, and many other serious health problems.  Dioxins form when anything containing chlorine is burned – including PVC, plastics, and even food.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that backyard burning is the largest quantifiable source of dioxins in the U.S.  
  • Open burning is especially harmful to children and has been linked to asthma.  One out of every ten children in Kentucky has asthma.  Childhood asthma is the leading cause of school absence in the United States.  Children breathe faster than adults, inhaling 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults.  This means children are especially vulnerable to pollutants created by open burning.

Alternatives to open burning include reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, and land filling.